Health and Wellbeing are augmented by systems of digital assistance and evaluation. How can a traditional Nordschwarzwald Kurort make use of this evolutionary shift in reinventing itself as a destination for an audience that is becoming increasingly interested in the connected flows of resources like water and energy? Departing from the Ornamenta Transferium 2022 show at Stadtmuseum Pforzheim the participants are joined by Bad Wildbad based historian Marina Lahmann, Carola Sickinger of Staatsbad Wildbad and Touristik Bad Wildbad´s manager Stefanie Dickgiesser on a journey into, past, present, and future of a Kurort. Thermonties, hot stones supplied with a power plug designed by Pia Matthes are ready to be used in the pump room of Palais Thermal.
In Bad Wildbad, situated at the heart of the Schwartzwald, finding the remedy is a well-established practice. No surprise then that during our journey from the Ornamenta Transferium to Palais Thermal, a Nordschwarzwald Thermalbad, a discussion emerged around how practices around wellness and wellbeing can inform larger narratives concerned with caring for our resources and the environment at large.
Led by historian Marina Lahmann, we were informed of the legacy of the regional spas, such as Bad Wildbad, as places for ritualistic bathing and healing, as well as serving as a congregation for nobility, where princes and princesses were married. Today, the chance to bathe in the waters of tradition and nobility is open to a wider public; with a wry smile we asked who will be crowned the new “Kurprinz”?
It soon became clear that telling tales of the past soon transforms into concern for the future the present becomes the place where ideas around technological progress and traditional practices converge. Yet, not everyone in the region welcomes what technology can offer, many are sceptical as demonstrated by the anti-5G and -WiFi signage that litters the serpentine roads en route to our destination.
Nevertheless, it is technology – new and old – that is behind the restorative qualities of the Palais Thermal which floods its pools every day pumping a constant flow of one million litres of healing thermal water into the spa that is then filtered back into the River Enz through sand and coal. This filtration system also benefits the local ecosystem as the local trout population flourishes.
Guided by Carola Sickinger we descended deeper into the Palais and learned more about the thermal spring waters and how the “Kurhäuser” of the Schwartzwald are places where we can reflect on the relationship between mind, body, and nature. At the Palais, the Ornamenta curators installed a collection of thermonties, ergonomically formed stones found in nature which are pleasing to the touch and comfortable to sit on. These particular thermonites have been re-worked by designer Pia Matthes and can be charged using electricity to dispense an enjoyable warmth in the Palais’ pump room.
On our bus journey back to the Transferium, we meditated on the evening’s events during a discussion with Touristik Bad Wildbad´s manager Stefanie Dickgiesser. Questions were raised about how to revitalize the valley, one that offers so much to rejuvenate the patrons of the spas and wellness centres in the region, yet remains dominated by those drawn to the DINK lifestyle.
The evening left us thinking about how technology could aid the preservation of natural resources and energy supplies to keep the waters flowing and help create a sustainable future while inviting a new generation of visitors into the region as the search continues for a therapeutic connection between body and mind and nature and technology. Bad Wildbad has the potential to become a “new commons” if given the chance: first curating the Kurort calls for the crowning of the collective as the new Kurprinz.